Josef Bull | Arctic Expedition Aesthetics

Josef Bull is a Swedish artist based between Stockholm and NYC. Last summer he joined a two-month residency on an icebreaker in the Arctic Ocean. Here are some of his thoughts and a selection of images from the trip.

Kenneth, Josef Bull, 2014

Kenneth, Josef Bull, 2014

The Swedish Polar Research Secretariat invited me to join Swerus-C3 this summer: a two leg Swedish/Russian/U.S expedition in the East Siberian Arctic Ocean. The goal of the expedition was to investigate the linkage between climate, cryosphere (sea ice and permafrost) and carbon release from the sediment to the atmosphere.

Amidst a team of 50+ geologists, oceanographers, atmospheric researchers and crew, I was the artist on board Leg 2, traveling from Barrow, Alaska to Tromsø, Norway.

Arctic mud, Josef Bull, 2014

Arctic mud, Josef Bull, 2014

Backgammon kit on German jacket, Josef Bull, 2014

Backgammon kit on German jacket, Josef Bull, 2014

While waiting to board the icebreaker Oden in Barrow, I went to a small museum dedicated to the history of whaling. In addition to the historical objects in the collection, the museum had decided to exhibit contemporary equivalents. The result was an odd collection of things from different times and from a culture undergoing major change: a pair of rainbow Oakley’s lens next to ivory Inuit snow goggles, Carhardt overalls next to seal skin pants, or just a random sun bleached baseball hat worn by a local whaler in the 90s.

Once onboard Oden, I continued to see the objects around me in a similar way. Shower curtains, candy bars, scientific equipment and indoor slippers came together and seemed like essential parts of the operation. I set up a primitive photo studio in a blue shipping container on the 4th floor, port side, and started working with these objects that to me held significance within their context.

Boy and squirrel at DIA airport, Josef Bull, 2014

Boy and squirrel at DIA airport, Josef Bull, 2014

I expected my strongest experiences from the expedition to relate to the natural world, but this trip quickly became much more about the people and the everyday life onboard.

In a way, my work motivated me to interact. I had to get to know the scientists and crew to access objects and spaces, and whether sentimental or official, every loaned item required a degree of trust. For instance, after some convincing, the chef agreed to lend me the very last sausage on board for one hour – it was going to be cooked the day after, he said, and wouldn’t be safe to eat if kept out for longer.

Falukorv (sausage) and tactical watch on towel and cruise plan, Joseph Bull, 2014

Falukorv (sausage) and tactical watch on towel and cruise plan, Josef Bull, 2014

Future Lasertech printing paper and injection-needles for gas chromatograph in styrofoam, Josef Bull, 2014

Future Lasertech printing paper and injection-needles for gas chromatograph in styrofoam, Josef Bull, 2014

I realized early on that my idea of the Arctic was a misconception. My expedition-style sunglasses never left their case: one day of sunshine was all we had for seven weeks. The weather in the Arctic is usually foggy and overcast, but the photographs people share are always from that one sunny day. This exemplifies the reality of Arctic expeditions.

That said, this contribution is probably misguiding as well, but it is nevertheless my portrait of what a climate research expedition to the Arctic looks like in 2014.

Agricultural machinery classifieds, christmas candlestick, comic magazine and glass syringes in custom made coke crate on towel and tablecloth, Josef Bull, 2014

Agricultural machinery classifieds, christmas candlestick, comic magazine and glass syringes in custom made coke crate on towel and tablecloth, Josef Bull, 2014

Pedro, Josef Bull, 2014

Pedro, Josef Bull, 2014

More about Josef Bull

Recent Posts

A Conversation about Ergonomic Futures

Lafayette Anticipation associate curator Anna Colin talks to artist Tyler Coburn about Ergonomic Futures, a speculative project engaged with art, design, science, anthropology and writing. In this interview, Coburn discusses the research, production process and network of collaborators of a multilayered project ultimately concerned with the futures of humankind. Anna Colin: When one comes across your museum seats Ergonomic Futures (2016—) in contemporary art exhibitions—and soon in natural history, fine art, and anthropology museums—they look… [read more »]

nils lange + saliva : l’eau des algues

L’Eau des Algues Two alchemists already aware of each other’s Instagrams meet for the first time in a gay sauna. They are swimming; it’s the Hood By Air afterparty in Paris. They are Lukas Hofmann and Nils Amadeus Lange. Months later, they meet again. They are on the edge of yet another steaming pool; it’s the Manifesta Biennale closing event at Cabaret Voltaire. They are performing the perfume titled “L’eau des Algues.” Head notes: Zürich… [read more »]

Toward a Low Key Voting System Where Votes Are Actually Considered | Adrian Massey

While reading A Very Short Introduction to Game Theory, I came across the following passage, “If you want people to vote, we need to move to a more decentralized system in which every vote really does count enough to outweigh the lack of enthusiasm for voting which so many people obviously feel…Simply repeating the slogan that ‘every vote counts’ isn’t ever going to work, because it isn’t true.” I was jarred. For me, anecdotally knowing… [read more »]

Tough Luck | Tyler Reinhard

When life is being super unfair, just do what we all do: suffer the consequences. I wake up and the first thing I do is check my phone. A convenient euphemism for using Facebook’s machine learning techniques to discover which 300 entries are statistically most likely to stand out from the tens of thousands of brain dumps my friends and family have produced over the last 48 hours. Impressed by what Facebook provides, I think… [read more »]

America Is Hard to See: A Guide to not being depressed about US electoral politics this November

In order to make sense of state politics in the birthplace of statistical marketing and the internet, one has to be wary of the effects of these technologies on the country’s popular media. In a time when our news and advertisements are tailored to our pre-recorded political opinions, it can be especially difficult to empathize with differing political views. Likewise, learning about the histories of state politics is not encouraged by platforms that profit from… [read more »]

On self-care and the election | Eva Saelens

We can get together and laugh about it. We can heave sighs and express disbelief, but it’s never enough. This presidential election year has lasted for years, and they sit on citizens like a slick film. We feel touched by an unshakable germ, invaded by a blood-sucker, afflicted by a social cancer, drained of the plump vitality of life and the amazing liberty of choices, and transformed into a cynical, depressed shrivel. After being touched… [read more »]

Swarovski Crystal Meth at National Sawdust

Swarovski Crystal Meth, a collaboration between Ser Serpas, Daniela Czenstochowski and Gia Garrison for the National Sawdust “Selkie Series” performances, curated by Alexandra Marzella. Music composed and produced by Daniela Czenstochowski Poem by Sera Serpas Sound Edit Mateo Majluf Vocals Sera Serpas, Gia Garrison and Daniela Czenstochowski All Images Olimpia Dior i went to the desert con mi mama outlet store shopping is fried onto mi conciensa, big bags, wins bigger losses fragmented lux economy… [read more »]

Hasbeens and Willbees Auction @ Romeo Gallery

Shop items from the most recent Hasbeens and Willbees luxury auction now! Featuring Bjarne Melgaard, Bror August, Women’s History Museum, Lou Dallas, Hermes, Gautier, and more. All photography Dillon Sachs Styling Avena Gallagher Hosted by Rome Gallery NYC


What is a piece of clothing that “works”? Who is working whom? Is the one who poses the one who actually “works” hardest? The S/S 2017 collection of Berlin-based, Swedish- Vietnamese designer NHU DUONG entitled ‘WORK COLLECTION’ plays with the ideas of professionalism, leisure and appropriateness through a range of garments that are inspired by work outfits and hobby uniforms. Overalls, raw denim outfits, kung-fu pyjamas, biker pants, baggy tights and gloves, bomber-jackets, bomber suits,… [read more »]

Preparing to Welcome the Chthulucene | Agustina Zegers

Preparing to Welcome the Chthulucene is a text made up of living exercises to accompany Haraway’s theorization of the Chthulucene and her upcoming book Staying With the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene. Haraway posits that not only should we name the Anthropocene carefully (including the terms Capitalocene and Plantationocene within its narrative) but that we should also be using this crucial ecological timeframe to move towards a dynamically multi-species, “sym-chtonic“, sym-poietic future: the Chthulucene.… [read more »]